Author: Liz Byrski
Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
Liz Byrski is an author I have been come across before and I have loved her character driven novels and writing style, on reading the blurb for A Month of Sundays I knew that I wanted to give this one a go. As a book lover and member of an online book club it was a book that certainly spoke to me, and one I would have LOVED to feature as a book club title.
A Month of Sundays revolves around an online book club, which grabbed me from the start. The book club has been running for over a decade and the membership has fluctuated over the years, it’s now down to four members. They get together on skype once a month to discuss the book they have been reading but unlike a physical book club they generally only talk about books. They are acquaintances with pretty set impressions of one another but they don’t actually know each other that well. All are older ladies struggling with an element of their life and they are beautiful, strong women who don’t have a close female friendship to rely on.
Adele is about to retire from her position at the head of a company and is determined to enjoy retirement. She is offered the opportunity to housesit in the Blue Mountains and decides it would be a lovely opportunity to actually get the four members of the book club to meet in person. A month to step out of their lives and read, talk books and enjoy the gorgeous scenery and fresh air of the Blue Mountains.
The email inviting members to the book club retreat is quite detailed in what could be offered and Adele is a great organiser, she has all sorts of things planned if the other ladies are interested. One of the things she suggests is that each of them select a book for them all to read, one that will help the others get to know each other better.
I loved this book, I loved these characters and I loved the way their book club reading taught them a great deal about each other but also about themselves. It allowed them to relate through their reading experiences and it was interesting to watch the completely different takes on the same book, and one of the ladies does say that it’s like they read a completely different book. Sometimes what we take into a book colours how we read it so completely that we experience it from our own perspective. Sitting back to watch Adele, Simone, Ros and Judy share books that have resonated so deeply with them was fascinating.
Byrski has illustrated how differently our own vision of ourselves can be from the way others see us. We see ourselves through a mirror of our own experience and others don’t have those preconceptions to judge us, sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes not so much.
All four of our book clubbers are nervous and concerned about the prospect of spending four weeks in such close confines with women who are essentially strangers. It’s all well and good to spend a Sunday a month talking books but that doesn’t tell you about their habits or their moods though you can tell a fair bit about a person by their reactions to their reading.
These four women learn so much about themselves and what they need going forward in their lives, they find a peace and a connection that none of them expected. I loved that they all made the decision to get together, even though they had their misgivings, and once they got there they questioned the merit of their decision but gave themselves the time to relax before making the decision to walk away.
Byrski puts a demographic in the limelight that are often left playing supporting roles to a younger crowd and I love that she’s focusing on older women who are facing major changes in their lives and remind us that it’s never too late to make a change.
The four books, well actually there were five because they were reading one while the arrangements were made, are ones that had the women discussing how they related the book to themselves, how the books changed them and how discussing their different perspectives had them thinking a little more deeply. I am more than a little tempted to make a note of them so that I can chase them down at the library and read them as well.
A Month of Sundays explores the comfort offered by a good friend, a good book and discovering that there’s always going to be someone in your corner.
Feeling trapped in the successful business you have built, facing the uncertainty of a lifechanging medical diagnosis, discovering that all you think you knew about your past is questionable and having to discover who you are once your career is over and your business identity is shed are major things to face so the opportunity to escape it all for four weeks in the Blue Mountains is a welcome reprieve. A month that gave so much more than anyone expected and was a delight to read.
I loved A Month of Sundays and would recommend it to members of book clubs everywhere; as well as women young and old and pretty much anyone who loves a character driven story of women building each other up and offering strength when it’s needed.
A Month of Sundays is book #28 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018.